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Benedikt Jahnel Trio: The Invariant

 A l b u m   D e t a i l s

Label: ECM Records
Released: 2017.01.13
Category: Jazz, Post-Bop, Cool Jazz
Producer(s): Manfred Eicher
Media type: CD
Web address: www.benejahnel.de
Appears with:
Purchase date: 2017
Price in €: 1,00

 S o n g s ,   T r a c k s

[1] Further Cosequences (B.Jahnel) - 5:49
[2] The Circuit (B.Jahnel) - 5:10
[3] Mirrors (B.Jahnel) - 9:31
[4] Mono Lake (B.Jahnel) - 3:48
[5] Part of the Game (B.Jahnel) - 6:44
[6] For the Encore (B.Jahnel) - 5:39
[7] Interpolation One (B.Jahnel) - 3:55
[8] En Passant (B.Jahnel) - 4:50

 A r t i s t s ,   P e r s o n n e l

Benedikt Jahnel - Piano, Liner Photography
Owen Howard - Drums
Antonio Miguel - Double Bass

Manfred Eicher - Producer
Jan Erik Kongshaug - Engineer
Arne Reimer - Cover & Liner Photography

 C o m m e n t s ,   N o t e s

Recorded in March 2016 at the Rainbow Studio, Oslo.

2017 CD ECM Records - ECM 2523

Sometimes there's no substitute for experience, as demonstrated by this trio as it celebrates its tenth anniversary as a working unit. Last heard on Equilibrium (ECM, 2012), it's an international group that met through a series of lucky coincidences: Berlin-based pianist/composer Benedikt Jahnel is joined by Spanish bassist Antonio Miguel and Canadian drummer Owen Howard. Jahnel has also appeared on ECM as a member of Cyminology, a jazz group with culturally and ethnically diverse influences which primarily performs with Persian lyrics sung by Cymin Samawatie.

Opener "Further Consequences" starts things off in odd-metered, yet swinging fashion. "The Circuit" continues that feeling, with Howard again using brushes; the tune ends somewhat unconventionally, on a lyrical bass solo from Miguel. "Mirrors" is the longest track on the program. It features a long, monumental sounding theme that unwinds slowly. There is a striking breakdown section featuring an unaccompanied bass solo (with piano and drum commentary), before returning to the grand theme. It's a striking piece, full of both structure and a sense of freedom in the playing.

"Part Of The Game" finds its energy in an insistent ostinato rhythm, initially set up by Howard's drums, which have an especially prominent role through the entire piece. While certainly not just a drum feature, it does put a special focus on rhythm. The energy never lets up, but the group finds plenty of variety in the development. "For The Encore" is perversely not placed at the end of the program—but it has a deliberate calm that would work very well for a quiet encore after an energetic set. "Interpolation One" is built upon a slow ostinato, from which the thematic material emerges. The encore feeling is revisited in the ballad "En Passant" (named for a chess move) that ends the album.

Among the many ECM piano trios Jahnel's trio leans more toward the compositional side of the composition/improvisation spectrum. But it's still very much a jazz band, with all of the players making a significant contribution to the sound.

Rating 4 out of 5

Mark Sullivan - February 22, 2017
© 2017 All About Jazz

Piano trios seem to be easier to keep going and build a life together than bigger groups - to become, as German pianist Benedikt Jahnel says of his band with Spanish bassist Antonio Miguel and Canadian drummer Owen Howard “a constant in a transformational period”. This year the band will be celebrating its tenth anniversary.

The Invariant is a fine celebration in itself. Eight tracks, all written by the pianist, and showing a marvellously bedded-in interplay between the players that helps them achieve that uncanny double effect for the listener of being both three individuals, each with their own musical personality, and yet also being one, united in their communal interpretation and expression of the music.

My favourite tracks on this album keep changing. At the moment it’s Mirrors with its dense structure and perfectly controlled transitions through nine-and-a-half minutes. It feels like a classical piece in the thoroughness of the writing and in the romantic roundness and warmth of its theme, yet in performance it naturally acquires that elasticity and sense of change that only jazz musicians can give it.

Jahnel is, like quite a few modern musicians, also a scientist - he’s a researcher at the Weierstrass-Institut Berlin and is particularly interested in “interacting particle systems in the context of probability theory”, so it’s perfectly natural to be quite mathematical in his compositions, with odd time metre and other complexities.

But the remarkable thing is that for the listener this doesn’t sound like overly complicated music. Jahnel has an acute ear for melody and that sweetens any knotty pill embedded within these eight tracks. Exciting, playful, varied in mood, but with one overriding constant: yes, the invariant is real beauty.

Peter Bacon - February 16, 2017
LondonJazz News

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